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Proof by Definition

Let’s go back to the subject of the purpose of the national office. Part of the resistance to making effective use of economies of scale stems from a bad thinking habit that is endemic within the libertarian movement: proof by definition.

Ayn Rand did it “best.” She started with “Man is a Rational Animal,” and proceeded to develop an entire system of ethics, education and aesthetics based upon this definition – despite the objective fact that men are frequently irrational. What is especially ironic is that Rand points out numerous cases of humans acting irrationally. In fact, irrationality dominated human religion and political thought throughout history according to Rand.

But don’t let overwhelming data to the contrary get in the way of a good theory. And Rand didn’t.

And neither do the a priori economists at and They build definitions and derive conclusions and damn anyone who checks their results with actual references to the data. I have been accused of “scientism” by several such thinkers. And I accept their “insult;” I am a scientist.

That’s more than can be said about Dr. Thomas Szaz, who has somehow managed to define insanity out of existence.

Such intellectual silliness can creep into discussions of strategic matters. I have been reminded by multiple activists that the national party should attend to national elections. Local elections should be handled by local parties. So much for the McDonald’s paradigm of having a national organization support local franchisees where economies dictate. By this logic, the national corporation should stick to mail order hamburgers.

There are things that are better done at the national level, and things better done at the state and local level. Multiple considerations should determine which course to take: economies of scale, continuity, need for specialized knowledge, need for local knowledge, need for local presence, etc.

I have witnessed other examples of “proof by definition” but I will stop here.

Lest ye think I am picking on the LP, I would note that other political movements have their own bad thinking habits. For example, many on the Left have the opposite problem: an aversion to abstraction. Many a small-g green has told me “you think it’s all about money” when I propose an economical solution to an environmental or societal problem. The reaction is due to a dislike of abstraction and preference for particular solutions. The results of such thinking are unduly complicated “comprehensive plans,” unmanageable legal codes, regulatory agencies with conflicting mandates and so forth.

Different movements have different thinking habits. The lesson here is to be on guard against your own bad thinking habits.

There is one bad thinking habit that is common to nearly every political movement, which we cover next.

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Lessons Learned in the Libertarian Party
General Motors vs. McDonald's
Danger! Overhead!
Economies of Scale
Professionals: not a Panacea
It's Coke or Pepsi Time
Use the Volunteers
Morale vs. Motivation
Proof by Definition
Vote for me, you Bastard!
Voter Education vs. Indoctrination
Sound Bites, Anyone?
First, Don't Be Silly
On Herding Cats
A Better National Committee?
And More
Why Third Political Parties Fail
The Constraints Third Parties must Obey to Succeed
A Strategic Framework for Third Political Parties
Starting a New Political Party from Scratch